Smith quoted a recent News' survey of contractors who identified worker shortage as their biggest concern. He added that the U.S. Department of Labor projects a need for an additional 20,000 service techs and installers per year, and yet enrollment in HVAC training programs has been declining sharply.
He cited worker productivity as a major byproduct of the shortage. "Do we have a technician shortage problem or do we have a productivity problem?" Smith asked. "We have both. If I can increase productivity by 20 percent, that could mean a 20 percent decrease in staffing."
Smith used an example of an efficiency problem. "There is a waste of more than an hour each day if a tech comes into the shop before he gets to his first job."
He said that increasing productivity means that management needs to increase training, especially if new hires show a willingness to learn.
"I look for a high degree of competency in new hires, and I want people to have a burning desire to be on a winning team," Smith said.
He added these suggestions about training and productivity:
Smith said he prefers to get referrals from employees, rather than paying for help wanted ads.
"You can run an ad for three days at a cost of $500 to $700 and get no response. You can pay an employee a $1,000 commission and get someone who is already familiar to you."
Once a new person is brought in for the interview process, Smith said that employers need to rehearse a "sales presentation" similar to that used for customers.
"We usually know what we are going to say on a sales presentation, but do we know what we are going to say when a recruit sits down across the desk from us? This shouldn't be a canned presentation, but it has to be a planned presentation."
Publication date: 01/19/2004